Wait over as thousands of students receive Leaving Cert results
Almost 60,000 students are receiving the results of their Leaving Certificate exams today.
This year sees a rise in the number of students opting to be examined at Higher Level. In Irish the proportion of students sitting the Higher Level paper has risen by 10%, in Maths it is up by 8%. In English, there is an increase of 6%.
This change has led to a fall in the proportion of students receiving higher marks at Ordinary Level, as students who might in previous years have performed well at Ordinary Level have opted instead for Higher Level papers.
Similarly, there has been a rise in the proportion of lower marks awarded on Higher Level papers.
There are a number of factors which are likely to have contributed to the rise in the number of students choosing to sit Higher Level papers.
Under the new grading system, CAO points are awarded for any score of 30% or more on a Higher Level paper.
In the past, the threshold for CAO points was 40%.
This year also sees the introduction of a new grading system, which reduces the number of different grades awarded from 14 to just 8.
The old alphabetical system of As, Bs and Cs has been replaced by a shorter numerical based one, which runs from one to eight at Higher, Ordinary, or Foundation Level.
A ‘One’ in the new system is the equivalent of an ‘A1’ in the old system, representing a result of between 90% and 100%.
A ‘Two’ is the equivalent of an A2 and B1, representing a score of between 80% and 90% and a ‘Three’ represents a score of between 70% and 80%. This encompasses the old B2 and B3 grades.
This change, accompanied by an alteration in the CAO points system, has been introduced in an attempt to make the college entry system fairer.
The points system has been recalibrated so that fewer students achieve the exact same score.
In the past, because large numbers of students achieved the exact same points score, not all who reached the threshold for a particular course were accepted.
A greater diversity in individual scores should make for a fairer allocation of college places.
It is also hoped that the wider grading bands introduced this year will over time reduce the pressure felt by students to maximise their scores.
However, it remains to be seen if the changes will have this desired outcome.
The author of a report which recommended these changes has said more needs to be done to reduce the points pressure on students.
Aine Hyland, Emeritus Professor of Education at UCC, told RTÉ News that the third-level institutions need to continue to reduce the number of specialised first-year courses on offer to students.
Prof Hyland said students leaving second level should not have to make life-determining choices so early on.
She said students would be better served by entering more general courses, such as omnibus arts or science degree courses, in their first year.
This would enable them to postpone decisions on specialisation to a later stage, she argues.
A reduced number of courses should also lead to a reduction in the points required for many subjects.
16,395 students sat the Higher Level Maths paper this year. This represents 30% of all students sitting the subject and is the highest number ever.
The vast majority of those achieved 30% or more.
Of this year’s 58,550 Leaving Certificate students, just under 5% sat the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.
This is a programme with a more vocational focus, where a large proportion of marks have already been awarded through continuous assessment.
Thirteen students achieved top marks – eight Grade One’s at Higher Level.
Laura Stack, from Dromcollogher in Co Limerick, who went to Hazelwood College, was among those who achieved the highest points possible.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, she said there is no secret to her eight H1s, saying she did the work “bit by bit”.
“I just tried to do the work as I went along, I didn’t spend hours upon hours with my head in the books or anything like that.
“I just tried to do it bit by bit as I got it, it worked out anyway. I kept up sports throughout the year until it got to exam time and I played a lot of camogie.
“I think that helped me out a bit as well because it gave me structure so I knew I had to get it done before I went training or whatever.”
Overall, more than 6,500 students will be awarded at least one Higher Level Grade One in their results.
Thirteen students achieved top marks in their exams, getting eight Higher Level Grade Ones.